Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
At the mention of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, travelers’ minds rush to the endangered Mountain Gorillas that are the prime attraction of this Park. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park displays an extraordinary attitudinal variation with rising and falling from deep river gorges and low hills to the high-forested ridges providing a fabulous range of other fauna and flora.
Mountain Gorillas: The park is home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas are an endangered species, with only around 1000 remaining in the wild in the whole world.
Sharing over 98% of their DNA with humans, gorillas display human characteristics, the Gorilla families are headed by a silver back – a mature male who selects places for the group to eat and sleep. These great apes are highly intelligent, gentle and peaceful animals, they have also been observed using tools and communicating using a variety of vocal sounds.
Bwindi Impenetrable forest is at the edge of the Western Rift Valley in the highest part of what is referred to as the Kigezi Highlands with its altitudes ranging from 1,190 to 2,067 meters.
Due to the diversity of the vegetation in Bwindi you can find over 120 species of mammals including Primates such as the Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Black and White Colobus, Red-Tailed Guenon,Vervet Monkeys, L’Hoest’s Guenon, Baboons, Nocturnal Prosimians, Forest Elephants ,Duikers, Bush pigs, Giant Forest Hogs, several small species of cats, 348 species of birds, 220 species of butterflies, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos.
Located in southwestern Uganda, along the border with the DR Congo and Rwanda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park covers a total land expanse of 331 sq km, and supports an assortment of jumbled vegetation, steep landscape, high slippery valleys, drought ridges and thick forest with undergrowth vegetation. Due to its age, one can see plants and trees here, that are not found elsewhere rendering it one of the most bio-diverse forests in Africa with one of the best ecosystems. Here you can find 160 species of trees, over 100 species of ferns, over 1000 flowering plants, and Afro-montane vegetation that is simply incredible.
Gorilla trekking: Gorilla trekking is the forest’s prime activity and is the main source of revenue. This Gorilla Trekking activity is one of the most fascinating activities where you trek the gorillas alongside ranger guides and escorts from 4-8 hours depending on the location of the great apes. Once you encounter the gorillas you are allowed 1 hour with the gentle creatures as you take pictures and watch them go through their normal day activities. Gorilla Trekking can be done in four sectors of the park including Buhoma, Ruhija,
Nkuringo and Rushaga, one can also opt for a Gorilla Habituation Experience spending 4 hours with the gorillas alongside the researchers as you watch them habituate a family of gorillas.
Additional primates living within this park are golden monkeys, chimpanzees, blue monkeys, red colobus monkeys, black & white colobus monkeys, grey-cheeked Mangabeys plus the L’Hoest monkeys.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of the tropical rain forests in East Africa where the lowland and montane vegetation zones meet. Bwindi Forest protected the jungle during the ice age and served as a water tower for most of the wildlife species that relied on the forest unlike other areas that didn’t have any forest or vegetation cover. Bwindi Forest has numerous vegetation types that are widely categorized into medium altitude, moist evergreen and the Afro montane forest which is a highly limited vegetation category in Africa.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is renowned as a water catchment area that has supported agricultural practices especially for adjacent local communities as well as the major source for several rivers like Ivy, Munyaga, Ihihizo Ishasha and Ntengyere that drain into Lake Edward with rivers like Ndego, Kanyamwabo and Nshongi flowing southwards to Lake Mutanda. The park is popularly credited for its 400 plant species which support an intense wildlife diversity as well as a composition of abundant, lush, foggy rainforests, three pristine waterfalls together with its rare rich vegetation of tree ferns, colorful orchids and epithetic ferns accompanied by an intense variety of bird species, wildlife and butterflies making the scenic beauty of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is mostly known for its remaining endangered Mountain Gorillas, though the forest is home to many mammal species and bird species that inhabit this diverse area.
The park provides habitat for about 120 species of mammals, 348 species of birds,are 23 species endemic to the Albertine Rift, and at least 14 species recorded nowhere else in Uganda, among them the African green broadbill, white-tailed blue flycatcher, brown-necked parrot and frazers eagle owl. In addition to its extensive bird checklist, 220 of butterflies including 8 Albertine Rift Endemics, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos and many endangered species.
Other species in the park include; chimpanzees, L’Hoest’s monkey, African Elephant, African Green Broadbill, the cream-banded swallowtail, black and white colobus, red-tailed monkeys, vervets, the giant hog, small antelope species, some carnivores including the side-striped jackal and African civet.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the most visited park in Uganda, people travel from all over the world to come and visit the remaining mountain gorillas in the world in their natural habitat. There is more to the park than just gorilla trekking to meet the eye and interest of the travelers when they journey to this amazing forest.
Gorilla trekking: Encountering the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat is one of the most adventurous and lifetime experience. Hiking through the Gorilla paths with the ranger guides gets you closer to nature, with several animals and bird species to be spotted during the experience that takes about 8 hours and spending about an hour with the Gorillas.
There are four gorilla groups in Bwindi including Mubare Group (10 gorillas, 1 silverback) was opened for tourism in 1993, Habinyanja group (18 gorillas, 1 Silverback) opened I July 1998, Rushegura group (10 gorillas, 1 Silverback) was opened in July 2004, while Nkuringo group (19 gorillas, 2 silverbacks) was opened for tourism in April 2004.
Gorilla Habituation Experience: The Gorilla Habituation Experience activity can only be done in Uganda, here you spend 4 hours with a Mountain Gorilla Family along with researchers. This is an amazing experience to view a Mountain Gorilla Family being habituated.
Nature Walks: Bwindi Forest supports the greatest diversity of any East African forest, with various trails, ranging from 30 minutes to eight hours lead from Buhoma to Nkuringo and vice versa offering the opportunity to enjoy the humility of the forest monkey species and birds
The trials include; the Munyanga River trail, the waterfall trail, the Muzubijiro Loop Trail, the Rushura Trail, the Ivy River Trail and the Bamboo Trail.
Birding: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of Africa’s best Birding Sites where with many species endemic to the forest. As one of the prime birding destinations in Africa, there over 347 species of forest birds recorded in the Park, at least 70 out of 78 montane forest bird species occurring in the Albertine Rift region are found in the forest, and 22 of the 36 endemic species in the region.
The Batwa- Cultural Encounters: These are the pygmies who were the first inhabitants of the forest for years, they were hunter-gatherers and lived in the forests of Southwest Uganda and beyond. They left a small ecological footprint on the forest and lived in harmony with nature.
The Batwa Experience gives you a glimpse into the lives and traditions and also restores a bit of their dignity and keeps their cultural practices alive.
Mountain Bike Rides: Conduct a village walk on a bike with a guide or simply a ride into the Forest such as the Ivy River Trail. The average Bike Ride is 3 hours or longer in length with much to see along the trail or road.
The choices of where to stay in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are determined by which sector of the park you going to conduct gorilla trekking, if you are trekking in the Northern sector of the park you can stay in Buhoma and Ruhija Lodges while if you are trekking in the southern sector of the park you can stay in Nkuringo or Rushaga.
Lodges in Buhoma (northern Sector of the Park)
- Buhoma Lodge
- Bwindi Lodge
- Silverback Lodge
- Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp
- Lake Kitandara Bwindi Camp
- Buhoma Community Rest Camp
- Engagi lodge
- Gorilla Resort
- Mahogany springs camp
- Bwindi Guest House
- Bwindi View Bandas
- Eco Marvels Gorilla Resort
- Gorilla Friends Lodge
- Jungle View Lodge
Lodges in Ruhija(eastern sector of the park)
- Ruhija Gorilla Safari Lodge
- Ruhija Gorilla Mist Camp
- Trekkers Tavern cottages
- Gift of Nature Lodge
- Ruhija Gorilla Resort
- Ruhija Gorilla Friends Resort & Campsite
- Ruhija Community Rest Camp
Nkuringo (southern sector of the park)
- Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge
- Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge
- Nshongi Camp
- Chameleon Hill Lodge
- Nyundo Valley Hill Bandas
- Rushaga(southern sector of the park)
- Gorilla Safari Lodge
- Rushaga Gorilla Camp
When To Visit?
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is open for wildlife viewing all year round though the best time to visit is from June to August and December to February when they are less rains as they are the drier months. March to April and September to November are usually very wet month, rendering gorilla trekking quiet complicated due to the slippery and impassable roads and trekking trails though the rainy season is the best bird watching time.
How To Get There?
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has four sectors-Buhoma and Ruhija that can be accessed from the northern part of the park, Nkuringo and Rushaga that can be accessed from the southern part of the park for viewing mountain gorillas in the wild.The park can be accessed either by road or by air
- From Queen Elizabeth National Park- Kihihi-Buhoma passing through and it covers an area of about 160 km from Mweya and about 64km from Ishasha.
- From Kampala-Kabale-Buhoma passing through the tarmac highway to Kabale and covering an area of about 414 km and then a murram road of about 120km..
- From Kampala-Kabale-Nkuringo covering a distance of about 105 km from Kabale town and it takes about 4 hours to get to the mountainous murram road.
- From Kigali Rwanda and in 3 1/2 hour, you are in Rushaga or Nkuringo in the Southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
- Fly-in from Entebbe Airport to Kihihi airstrip and track gorillas in the Buhoma sector or Ruhija sectors of the park
- Fly-in from Entebbe Airport to Kisoro airstrip and track gorillas in the Nkuringo and Rushaga sectors of the park.